A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that even though author Stephenie Meyer intended her sci-fi novel The Host for adult readers, the big-screen adaptation is just as teen friendly as the Twilight saga -- but with aliens instead of supernatural characters. There's a whole lot of passionate kissing, and two young adult characters (in the book, they're specifically described as an older teenage girl and her twentysomething boyfriend) who are revealed to be lovers share a couple of mild sex scenes (mostly just making out in bed, with the man barechested). Given the genre, it's not unusual that there's also violence: People (both alien and human) are shot, commit suicide, and gravely injured. But as in all of Meyer's stories, there's a happily ever after, as well as themes of humans banding together to fight for their freedom and the ability to live and survive.
What's the story?
In the near future, a race of nomadic parasitic aliens -- called "Souls" -- have taken over humanity. The jellyfish-looking aliens are injected into humans, whose minds are then suppressed as the aliens take control, turning their hosts' eyes silver. Melanie Stryker (Saoirse Ronan), a member of the dwindling human resistance, purposely diverts a group of aliens by throwing herself out a window. But she survives and is implanted with her new alien Soul, Wanderer. Unlike other human hosts who fade away completely, Melanie's consciousness continues to speak to Wanderer and persuades her to evade her alien interrogator (Diane Kruger) and go to the desert hideout where Melanie's boyfriend, Jared (Max Irons), and little brother, Jamie (Chandler Canterbury), are staying. Only they don't see Melanie -- just the alien who's taken her body. Slowly, Wanderer -- dubbed Wanda by Melanie's wise uncle Jeb (William Hurt) -- starts to make alliances, including a confusing attraction to Ian (Jake Abel), Jared's more open-minded friend.
Is it any good?
As sci-fi movies go, THE HOST is one part Invasion of the Body Snatchers and three parts maudlin romance. Director Andrew Niccol doesn't bother with much world building except for the fact that the pacifist Souls all have a thing for wearing shades of white and driving souped-up silver Lotuses; there's no real explanation for the hypocrisy of a supposedly pacifist alien race thinking that it's all right to parasitically control an entire species. And while reading the back and forth between Wanderer and Melanie made perfect sense in the book, the movie translates that by having a narrated dialogue with two different inflections -- Wanderer's smooth tones and Melanie's faux Louisianan accent.
While teen (and adult) viewers who are only interested in the steamy kisses and the mind-bending love quadrangle will be content, most audiences will laugh at The Host's unintentionally funny moments -- like pretty much every time the Melanie voice speaks. Ronan, who's riveting in films like Atonement and Hanna, is deserving of better, although at the very least she manages to pull off her romantic moments with both Melanie's love Jared and Wanda's suitor Ian with conviction. Too bad the movie is more of a frothy alien romance than a true science-fiction thriller.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about alien movies and their enduring popularity. How does The Host compare to other invasion/take-over movies in which the aliens are more overtly violent?
Stephenie Meyer has said that the book The Host was based on isn't YA but rather a sci-fi romance for grown-ups. Are there any aspects of the movie or story that you think make it more appealing to adults than teens? How do you think this story compares to Meyer's Twilight series?
Book fans, what characters or plot points do you wish had been included in the movie? Which changes did you like?
- In theaters: March 29, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: July 9, 2013
- Cast: Diane Kruger, Max Irons, Saoirse Ronan
- Director: Andrew Niccol
- Studio: Open Road Films
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Book characters, Space and aliens
- Run time: 121 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some sensuality and violence
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.